Hunger Awareness Week invites us to not only talk about the problem of hunger in Canada, but to think about how we can address it. At the Ontario Association of Food Banks, our long-term vision has always been a hunger-free Ontario. Next summer, this dream may inch a little closer to becoming a reality.
As the job market continues to contort and contract through the shifting of jobs, wages, and stability -- there is a growing voice, a growing question -- how do we make sure people across this province have the means to eat, to live, to thrive? How can we ensure that Ontarians are able to meet their most basic needs?
What we have done for far too long is simply not working. Even with all the social supports in place, the resulting income is often only enough to maintain a family in poverty. At their worst, existing policies and programs actually entrap people in poverty. This is why we need a new way. A basic income would work as a tax credit administered through the taxation system similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors. If someone earns less or has less than the poverty line, they would simply be topped up to a point above the poverty line.
The Stop has been running a food bank for over 30 years. With help from students at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy, we recently asked community members about our emergency response. We provide healthy food, but our monthly hampers last three days. We wanted to know what happens the other 27 days. Food insecurity is not an "emergency," but the predictable result of poverty, a slow-burning fire, affecting one in eight Canadian households. More than 30 years on, we refer to food banks as emergency response. Is that what we mean? Is it time to call out this dangerous misnomer and the inadequate national response it has fostered?